Black Brown White (2011)

Black Brown White is the first fiction film by Erwin Wagenhofer and stars Fritz Karl, Clare-Hope Ashitey, Theo Caleb Chapman, Karl Markovics and Wotan Wilke Möhring.

Plot:
Don Pedro (Fritz Karl) is a truck driver. Together with his friend Jimmy (Karl Markovics) he has a company that ships vegetables across Europe and to North Africa. To fatten up the budget a little bit, they also bring fugitives from Africa to Europe. On the current trip, there’s a young woman, Jackie (Clare-Hope Ashitey) and her son Theo (Theo Caleb Chapman) who refuse to be treated as the other fugitives, locked in a hidden compartment in the truck. Against his better judgment, Don Pedro goes along with her request and together they make their way to Europe.

Black Brown White has a good cast, awesome cinematography and good characters. The story would have been sufficiently layered, but its constant attempts to educate the viewer are too annoying for its own good. But I guess if you like your films with a healthy dose of finger-wagging, this is for you.

I think the biggest problem I had with the film is that Wagenhofer doesn’t let it speak for itself – everytime there is a “lesson”, some insight you can get, he spells it out for you. They can’t just stay in a whole settlement of empty houses, owned by people who never intend to live there and let you wonder by yourself about a society where that was a good strategy – he has to give you the commentary by Pedro lecturing Jackie. Which is not only patronising, it ruins the flow of the dialogue.

At least he refrains from painting everything in black and white (no pun intended). Though I still think that he lets off Don Pedro easy as a character. [SPOILER] Yeah, in the end he gets arrested, [/SPOILER] but his cruelty and cold-heartedness is glossed over. He’s a fucking people smuggler. He has no trouble locking 12 people in a small compartment in his truck with a bit of water for days and ask a lot of money for it. Not very freaking humanitarian. And the love story was very unnecessary.

Still. The movie has a very nice cast – Fritz Karl is good, Karl Markovics (who has not much more than a cameo) is always great and Wotan Wilke Möhring and Clare-Hope Ashitey are fine, too.

But the real star of the movie is the cinematography by Martin Gschlacht. He not only captures the landscapes, but also the “excesses of Europe” like the aforementioned empty settlement. Or the endless rows of greenhouses in Spain.

Summarising: A movie that will probably be the favorite of teachers for years to come which will lead to its annoying  generations of students.

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